I would rather my daughter watch violent movies than the children’s cereal commercials I grew up with.
At least the violent movies are honest about their message.
Do you remember the classic 1980s and 1990s cereal commercials? Cute little cartoon characters with funny little taglines.
“Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.”
“They’re always after me Lucky Charms.”
A good marketing or sales message solves a problem that the audience has. The easiest way to know what problem the audience has is to give them the problem. An effective commercial will create the world in which you need their product.
Think of the infomercial where a person opens their kitchen cabinet and an avalanche of storage containers falls on them. Then they offer you a much more efficient set of storage containers.
Never in my life have I opened a kitchen cabinet and had a thousand containers fall on me, but as I watch the infomercial, I am thinking that maybe I should get their storage solution because they’ve drawn me into a world where such problems happen.
Remember the Fruity Pebbles commercials of the 90s?
Fred and Barney are supposed to be best friends, yet the theme of every single ad is that Barney is trying to steal Fred’s cereal.
What’s the moral lesson of this story? If you have something you like enough, then you keep it all to yourself and never share.
How about Trix?
“Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.”
“Silly person whose not like us, you don’t deserve the good things that we have.”
Only the people in the privileged class (kids) deserve the best things (Trix). The conceit of the ad is built on the same philosophical underpinnings as segregation laws.
Now you see why I’d be more comfortable with my daughter watching John Wick than an old cereal commercial.
At least the moral lesson of John Wick is about love and loyalty, not racism and selfishness.
It’s not just cereal commercials
World building is a powerful part of any sales or marketing message, and it is as dangerous as it is powerful.
Think of the events in the coaching industry, the ones built around giving you knowledge as a way to draw you in to make an offer.
There’s nothing wrong with this format, just like there’s nothing wrong with a TV commercial, but where it becomes problematic is when the world created is not entirely accurate.
If you’re attending an event like this, it is likely because you think the host knows something worth learning. So, if they teach you that rapid action is the key to success, and they are successful, you’ll internalize that idea that rapid action is good.
But what if they are only teaching this so that you’ll take rapid action to buy their program.
How about if they teach you that worrying about risk is overrated, and that taking massive risks with limited research is the path to riches?
But they are teaching this because they want you to think less of the risk of buying their program.
Maybe you don’t buy into their program, but you adjust your risk tolerance based on what this expert taught you and you mortgage your house to buy into some risky scheme and lose it all.
The advice wasn’t actually good advice, but was simply advice meant to compel you to a particular self-serving course of action.
Always being in integrity
After 25 years of studying sales, I can sniff out when someone has crafted their lesson to “teach” me what I need to know to make the decision they want me to make.
When this happens, I learn that I cannot trust a single word out of their mouth. If they are always selling and always closing, then when are they truly teaching?
If their lessons are built around pushing me to buy the next program, can I trust them to ever stop selling if I do buy in?
The way we do one thing is the way we do everything, right?
It’s okay to plant seeds in a sales process, but it’s not okay to turn your event into a jungle of manipulation.
What’s the right way?
The reason that people sell this way is that it works. They get you in for three days, live or online, draw you into their world, and after all that time, your reality is shifted enough that you’re ready to make decisions you wouldn’t other.
Unfortunately, if you don’t end up buying, then you leave with your reality warped, not shifted.
The better way is to approach the situation with the primary desire to serve, teach, and support.
The better way is to go into your event with the primary intention that every, single person who has trusted you with their time (and possibly money) will leave that event better for having met you whether or not they buy anything.
The better way is to share the best of what you know and who you are and trust that the right people will be attracted to work with you.